(Was going to go with ... "Year of the Rat?" but that seems too obvious)
With the Pittsburgh Penguins showing the consistency of Robert Downey Jr. in the 90s, the Montreal Canadiens partying like mob stars, the New York Rangers somehow not firing Glen "yeah he got Gretzky but he also gave Bobby Holik $8 million per year" Sather, the Hurricanes mired in mediocrity and the Sabres facing the grim reality of it no longer being (Ryan) Miller time ... the Florida Panthers might just be the safest bet to burst through the East's modest playoff bubble.
As Florida tries to generate an encore performance in Boston after Tomas Vokoun's masterful 41-save shutout of the Bruins, it seems to be as good a time as ever to take a peak at these under-the-radar Panthers.
In a post focusing on Jay Bouwmeester's future (or lack thereof) in Florida, Five Hole Fanatics took a look at the Panthers' outstanding goaltending this season:
"The lone factor holding the Panthers in the race is that unsustainable .933
Heh heh. Anderson's managed a save percentage just under 93, with a 2.49 GAA and 3 shutouts in 23 games played.
It sounded like the biggest bone of contention for Quoteless Bow was Florida's hapless playoff-less streak and without an impressive playoff run, he would probably be out of there. Up until the trade deadline, that's still the question: keep Bouwmeester for a crucial playoff run and risk losing him in the summer for nothing OR trade him for a potentially lucrative package and risk alienating your fanbase?
If the playoffs started today, the Panthers' 166 Goals for would only be higher than three other playoff teams: the Rangers (151), the Wild (151) and the Blue Jackets (165).